The Physics Behind a Tornado Kick


A tornado kick harnesses forward momentum with body torque, centrifugal force and gravity to deliver a round kick to an opponents face, head or neck. The round kick is just one of several crucial leg maneuvers that make the tornado kick possible. The physics behind the move rely upon the balance of the practitioner as well as adherence to a specific trajectory of advancing movement during the jump. Unencumbered by contact with the ground, the airborne spin picks up momentum quickly that must be transferred to the opponent in the same manner.

The Wind Up

  • A practitioner delivering a successful tornado kick begins with the same leg forward that they intend to deliver the kick with. If this is the right foot, the kicker begins in a fighting stance with the right shoulder pointing at the opponent. Body spin is initiated by the right foot making a slight step across the frontal plane. At the same, time the head and shoulders begin a counterclockwise rotation as the right leg dips. The arms engage into the direction of the spin as well, following the head's lead.

The Launch

  • At this point, the body of the kicker is rotating counterclockwise. The head leads the rotation and before the shoulders or legs spin around the kicker has already spun the head over the left shoulder. The right leg is recoiling upward after the dip and drives into the ground through the ball of the foot. As the kicker jumps upward, the head regains sight of the target, focusing on the exact point where the right foot will make contact. Meanwhile, the left knee kicks up past the vertical center line of the body at a 45-degree angle pointing in the direction of the spin.

Moment of Impact

  • Now airborne, the kicker's shoulders and hips follow the rotation of the head. As there is no contact with the ground this rotation occurs very rapidly. As the body is turning through the air, the left leg's position is still sharply cocked at a 45-degree angle. This is done to open the hips up so that they can complete a full 360-degree rotation at the point the kick makes contact. The right leg is now in round kick position. As the hips compete their rotation, the kicker is being pulled back to the ground. The left foot lands and plants just before the right foot comes down at an angle to the side off the head, face or neck. Centrifugal force and gravity are both felt as the foot makes contact with the target.

Ride Out the Recoil

  • Once the kicker has landed, the force of the spin may still have momentum, especially if only slight contact or no contact was made with the target. Either way the potential loss of balance is imminent. The best way a tornado kicker absorbs the leftover centrifugal force that was not transferred through contact is by continuing to turn with it. This happens when, after kicking, the right foot continues to move across the frontal plane into a step back in the direction the kicker came from. The left foot spins with this step, absorbing the leftover centrifugal force by moving it against the ground. The friction works like brake pads against the sides of bicycle tires. The kicker completes another 180 degrees of rotation, ending with the left shoulder pointing in the original direction of the opponent.

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